Tag Archives: rants

It’s Official: Pandemics Ruin Fridays

These past couple months have taught us a lot about ourselves. Granted, these are things we never wanted to learn, but it’s hard to avoid at this point. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, what party you belong to, or what your background is. A virulent disease doesn’t give a damn. It infects everyone it can.

This disease has already ruined a lot so far. From sports to movie releases to comic book releases, this pandemic has disrupted everything, large and small. There were some major family events that occurred recently and I couldn’t be part of it because of this damn disease. It breaks my heart and pisses me off, but there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Well, after nearly two months of isolation, I think I’m ready to declare that this pandemic has ruined something else. For me, at least, this disease has completely ruined Fridays.

I doubt I’m alone in this sentiment. I know plenty of people who will reach out to me on a Friday morning and say “Happy Friday!” in a semi-joking manner. I always appreciate the sentiment. It’s a nice reminder that the weekend is almost here and there’s plenty of fun to be had.

Now, what’s the point of looking forward to the weekend?

Why even get excited on Fridays anymore?

Those aren’t rhetorical questions. I’m not being sarcastic either. Seriously, what makes Fridays special anymore? School has already been canceled for many students. Social gatherings are effectively banned. There are no sports to watch. Movie theaters, bars, and restaurants are all closed. You can’t even throw a party in some states without breaking stay at home orders.

At this point, Fridays are nothing more than just another day that we have to endure in this pandemic-fueled shit storm. There’s nothing to look forward to. There’s no reason to get excited about anything. I usually try to avoid depressing rants, but this has been bugging me for a while. I just wanted to share that sentiment. Like I said, I doubt I’m the only one who feels that way.

With that in mind, let’s all stop saying “Happy Friday!” or “TGIF!” until this shit storm is over. At this point, it’s just a painful reminder of how bad this pandemic has gotten and we have enough of that.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, Jack Fisher's Insights, rants

How “Megamind” Subverts Expectations The Right Way (And Why Recent Attempts Keep Failing)

Every now and then, a narrative trend comes along that I neither care for nor understand. I get why many trends catch on. I’ve even been caught up in a few. I remember when stories about asteroid impacts became popular, as well as romance stories that relied on best friends falling in love. Some lasted longer than others. Some burn out. I think “Friends” alone killed the whole friends-falling-in-love-gimmick.

However, certain trends seem to catch on for all the wrong reasons. I’m not just referring to the gimmicky tropes of every sitcom attempting to rip off “Seinfeld,” either. These are narratives that attempt to troll the audience in hopes of a bigger reaction, as though that can somehow take the place of a compelling story.

Lately, the trend that I’ve found particularly frustrating is the idea of subverting expectations. It’s become a major buzzword in recent years, but not for good reasons. It became a big deal after the fan reaction to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and only intensified with the final season of “Game of Thrones.”

Now, I don’t want to get into extensive discussions about those emotionally charged subjects. I’ll let the fan bases continue to debate that in whatever way they see fit. Instead, I want to take a moment to look at this trend, note how it can be done well, and highlight why recent attempts are misguided and counterproductive.

While subverting expectations sounds cunning on paper, it’s one of those concepts that’s difficult to make work. The concept is simple. You take an audience’s expectations about a story, build up some narrative tension, and then go in an unexpected direction that changes and enhances the impact of that story.

It sounds simple, but it’s not. When it works, it’s amazing. When it fails, it’s downright toxic to itself. I would argue that neither Star Wars: The Last Jedi nor the final season of Game of Thrones” succeeded in that effort. However, one movie did succeed in this effort and it did so back in 2010, long before this trend even began.

That movie is “Megamind,” a film I’ve praised before for how it parodies the superhero genre. There’s a lot more I can say about this underrated gem, but this is one element that I feel is more relevant now than it was when the movie first came out. To date, I’ve yet to see a movie subvert expectations as well as this one.

The way Megamind” goes about this is not at all subtle, but it’s still powerful. It’s in the premise of the movie. It asks what happens when the evil genius supervillain actually defeats the handsome, square-jawed superhero? What do they do afterwards? Why did they pursue this goal in the first place?

The first 15 minutes of the movie do an excellent job of setting up the basic, generic premise of every superhero narrative since Superman. Metro Man is the hero. That’s how he carries himself. That’s how others see him. That’s how he’s perceived. Conversely, Megamind is the villain. That’s how everyone sees him. The prison warden himself says it before the opening title screen. He’ll always be a villain.

Everything is in place for a traditional hero-versus-villain struggle. Old concepts like justice, hero worship, and public perception come into play. Then, in the first real battle we see between Megamind and Metro Man, the unthinkable happens. Megamind, despite his grandiose boasting and casual bumbling, defeats Metro Man.

It’s not framed as some M. Knight Shamalyan twist. It’s not an attempt to shock the audience. It’s not some minor plot point, either. In fact, the rest of the movie is built around this sudden subversion of standard superhero stories. Every event, choice, and character moment stems directly from this subversion. It’s not just a minor element of the plot. It is the plot.

What makes it work is how this subversion helps tell a very different kind of superhero story. It’s not just about flipping the script for the sake of novelty. It makes a case that superhero narratives are capable of doing much more than simply having the hero save the day from the villain.

Throughout the movie, Megamind finds himself playing a part in every tried and true trope we’ve come to expect in a superhero movie. He starts off being a villain because that’s what he assumes he’s meant to be. He starts questioning that assumption because by defeating Metro Man, he finds himself without a greater purpose. In pursuing that purpose, he find out that those assumptions had serious flaws.

Such assumptions weren’t inherently right or wrong. It was a matter of digging a little deeper into the concept of heroes and villains, finding out along the way that the role he thought was right for him wasn’t the one he ultimately wanted. By the end, he still dresses like a villain. He’s still not nearly as handsome or powerful as Metro Man. However, he still chooses to become Metro City’s greatest hero.

This subversion of expectation works because it’s used to build a story rather than just tweak a few details. Moments like the revelation about Rey’s parents being nobodies or Arya Stark killing the Night King had only minor shock value, but they didn’t really factor into the larger plot.

If someone other than Arya had killed the Night King, then it wouldn’t have changed much in terms of how the last few episodes of “Game of Thrones” panned out.

If Rey’s parents turned out to be someone important in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” it wouldn’t have substantially altered how the events that followed played out. Rey still wouldn’t have joined Kylo.

Ultimately, those subversions just felt like trolling. These details that people thought were important just turned out to be tricks or ploys meant to get a reaction. It comes off as both dishonest and insincere. They might not have been intended as such, but given the fan reactions, I can understand that sentiment to some extent.

You thought all those prophecies about Jon Snow and the Night King meant something? Well, that turned out to be a big waste of time.

You thought Rey’s parents would impact the course of the movie? Well, that was just a complete waste of time, at least until “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” changed that.

At times, it felt like the story was tempting people to get engaged and then slapped them in the face the second the plot went in a different direction. As a result, it didn’t feel at all surprising or engaging. It just felt insulting.

Contrast that with “Megamind.” At no point does the plot attempt to demean the audience or anyone who enjoys the traditional superhero narrative. The subversion is in the synopsis. That same subversion is used to build a larger story that fleshes out characters who started out in generic roles, but ultimately embraced a different role.

This shift never feels forced or contrived. It’s not done just to get a cheap thrill or to stand out. At its core, Megamind” uses the concept of subverting expectations to tell a better story than it could’ve told if it stuck to the traditional superhero narrative. That’s why it works.

Unfortunately, that’s also why other recent attempts keep failing. Whether it’s a movie, a TV show, a comic book, or a video game, the concept has been used in a misguided effort to do something different. Subverting expectations has become synonymous, to some extent, with doing something new and bold. The importance of telling a compelling, coherent story is never more than secondary.

I get the importance of trying new things, especially when that genre has been played out in so many forms. However, doing so does not mean taking audience expectations and defying them in a way that feels blatant. At best, it just makes the story confusing. It’s just different for the sake of being different. At worst, it insults the audience and makes them feel denigrated for enjoying that narrative in the first place.

It can be done and done well. “Megamind” is proof of that. It doesn’t just subvert expectations for the superhero genre. It dares to build a story around it and even have a little fun with it along the way. It doesn’t at all take away from the genre it parodies. It just uses it as a foundation to tell a unique story.

No matter how many expectations you subvert, there’s no substitute for a quality story. Megamind” gives us that and the undeniable charm of Will Ferrell. That’s what makes it so enjoyable.

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Filed under Game of Thrones, movies, outrage culture, rants, Star Wars, television

A Brief Rant About Car Insurance Commercials

I understand why commercials exist. I’ve been watching TV my whole life. Even as a kid, I knew the economics behind it.

People have stuff they want to sell. TV networks and shows need to make money. Commercials are a way to do that. They need that money to keep providing us with content, compensate studios, and put up with egotistical actors. Those same economics apply to YouTube videos and streaming services like Hulu. If you don’t want to see those commercials, you have to pay extra for services like HBO and Netflix.

Economics aside, there’s only so much understanding I can have when certain commercials become more than just a nuisance. There’s advertising, there’s business, and then there’s just being annoying. With Super Bowl LIV just a few days away and a slew of big budget marketing pushes on the way, it’s a given that we’ll see a few of those commercials.

Since I plan to watch the Super Bowl this year, as I’ve done every year since I was a toddler, I’d like to offer a brief personal insight into a certain category of commercials. That insight can be summed up in just a few words.

Fuck any and all car insurance commercials!

I apologize if that’s not the most articulate insight ever uttered on the internet, but I’m not sorry for expressing my utter hatred of car insurance commercials. I’m not being factious. I’m dead serious.

Fuck car insurance commercials and every marketing team behind them!

Fuck their stupid gimmicks, dumb jingles, dim-witted celebrities, and annoyingly repetitive bullshit!

Fuck everything about the entire concept behind car insurance commercials!

I know there are a lot of annoying commercials out there, but for the past few years, car insurance commercials have entered a unique category of utterly infuriating. It’s bad enough that they seem to make up half of all commercials in existence. Every show on Hulu has at least one car insurance commercial and every live sports broadcast seems to have at least 20. They’re selling a product that’s inherently boring and frustrating.

Car insurance is not life saving medicine, a new toy, a fancy gadget, or a new movie. It’s goddamn bureaucracy, for crying out loud. Moreover, it’s bureaucracy that people are legally required to purchase if they own or regularly operate a vehicle. We don’t have the option to just ignore car insurance if we have a car. For both legal and financial reasons, we have to have it.

That makes relentlessly advertising it exceedingly redundant. I remember when I bought car insurance. I didn’t recount all the commercials, gimmicks, and quirky sayings they love to use. I just used the same insurance my parents and relatives had. They already had accounts. It was easier, quicker, and the price was basically the same.

Again, and it’s worth repeating, I needed to buy insurance when I bought my first car. The process wasn’t some life-defining experience. It was goddamn paperwork, followed by a few forgettable phone calls to an agent. These commercials, which present car insurance as this powerful, life-affirming experience, couldn’t be further from the truth without Michael Bay directing it.

Most of the time, I don’t think about insurance. I have had to use it before. It wasn’t the least bit thrilling. It was just phone calls and paperwork. That was it. Most people I know have the same experience. They don’t like dealing with insurance any more than they like going to the dentist to get root canal surgery.

I’ve met people who have bought things because they saw a commercial for it. I’ve never met anyone who said they bought car insurance because of a commercial they saw. It just adds to the lengthy list of reasons as to why I despise these commercials and skip or mute them if I can.

With each passing year, they become more annoying. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I know I’ll see plenty while watching the Super Bowl. To those companies and their overpaid marketing departments, I’ll say it again.

Fuck your goddamn car insurance commercials!

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